History of Gulf Coast Citrus

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Citrus unshiu, satsuma, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico, Freeze injury

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University Libraries


Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi are not often thought of as citrus-producing states. However, citrus has been grown in the coastal regions of these states since the late 19th century. With a climate cool enough for a suitable amount of acid to remain in the fruit for optimum flavor and for adequate peel color development, the northern coastal fringe of the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana to northwestern Florida is particularly well suited for production of the satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu Marc.), one of the most cold-hardy commercial citrus species. There were once thousands of hectares of satsumas planted in this region. Although satsumas typically reach optimum eating quality before fall freezes along the Gulf Coast, periodic severe freezes, as well as the occasional hurricane, prevented a citrus industry of this magnitude from remaining viable. Though freeze injury remains the primary limiting factor for citrus production in this region, there is great local interest, and a small industry focused on local markets has endured. Satsuma remains the primary citrus grown along the Gulf Coast region, though sweet oranges account for a large portion of citrus sales in Louisiana. This paper reviews the history of satsumas on the Gulf Coast, covering past and present production, cultivation, freeze protection strategies, pest issues, and marketing.